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The Cat’s Table
By Michael Ondaatje
(Knopf, $26)

Deposited at the dock by his family, 11-year-old Michael begins a journey across the Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka to England aboard the Oronsay, a microcosm of high and low society. Aboard the ship, he and two playmates spy on the rich and dine with the poor at the Cat’s Table, the “least privileged place” situated farthest from the Captain’s Table. In Michael’s unsuspecting eyes, the ship’s passengers are magical — from a thieving baron to a mysterious, shackled prisoner who only appears at night. Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient, delivers in this Bildungsroman about love, loss and the incidents that shake us from childhood.